Saturday, November 10, 2012

Not Quite The Weekend We'd Expected....

Only now am I sufficiently de-stressed to be able to look back on last Sunday and smile.

Earlier this year, we bought season tickets to enable us to travel to Longleat whenever we wanted  could afford to. We've managed to go back on several occasions,  and had great fun visiting the safari park, stately home and various other attractions.

After our last visit, which we all loved, we checked on the website and found that  Longleat was putting on a firework display last weekend.  Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, we were able to book a cheap family room at  nearby hotel, and leaving Basil in the loving care of Mrs DoomHamster, we left on Saturday morning. The journey there was very uneventful and pleasant, full of autumn colours and we  were lucky to avoid any traffic snarl-ups.

As always, I simply had to snap the Second Severn Crossing !

I also managed to get a snap of the first Severn bridge in the distance for DH, who likes it better.....

We passed through lovely countryside and some interesting places:

and finally, the stretch of Roman Road.


We arrived in Longleat nice and early, knowing that lots of local people would be taking advantage of the cheap rate £6 entry ticket just to see the fireworks starting at 6.30pm. We were directed to parking areas on the field of long grass near the river, which did make DH wonder what would happen if it rained later on as we do not have a four wheel drive vehicle.....

Longleat was its usual lovely self:

and we went on the train, which had been spookified for the occasion!
Because we had arrived early, we avoided the truly massive queues that built up later on.
Part way through the journey, the train slowed, then stopped,  and several of these jumped out at us.....
.... making the younger children scream.
They were in fact handing out sweets to all the passengers, and as I tried to photograph the one who leaned into our carriage, the train started to move, so this is what happened in the rapidly fading light.
Enough to give me nightmares :-)
We ambled over to the display area, where thousands and thousands of people were crammed in. It was dark and bitterly cold, and I could not believe that some parents were wearing hat, coat, scarf and gloves themselves, but were carrying very young children who wore only thin winter coats. One little girl we saw had hands that were blue with cold, and lots of babies were out without hats on. Crazy.
The fireworks were lovely, set to music. My camera in no way did them justice.
We had carefully positioned ourselves right by the only exit point, so we could make as speedy a departure as possible once the display ended. After the last firework, we turned and galloped as fast as we possibly could back to the car, knowing that if we had to wait for long, all the other cars passing over the grass would have churned  it into muddy ruts which our car would never have been able to safely navigate, especially in the dark and with hordes of other cars waiting impatiently behind us.
 Other people obviously had the same thought, as we were closely followed by one man who was running and pushing a small child in a pushchair at the same time and then by a procession of others. We reached the car, and were still fastening our seatbelts as DH carefully drove off the grass and onto the private road leading out of the estate. There were five or six cars ahead of us, and by the time we reached the junction between the grass and the road, the ground had indeed been churned into ruts, and it took us several attempt to get over them and safely onto the road. If we had left it any longer, we would most likely have been stuck there :-)
The traffic queues behind us were unbelievable by the time we reached the brow of the long incline leading out to the main road, and we headed straight for the supermarket to get some food, then back to the very comfortable hotel  room and a nice hot drink. 
Next morning, we slept late, till about 8.30am, and we were discussing what time we should get some breakfast and go back to Longleat to while away a few hours. We thought we'd made sensible plans, and it was only when DH opened  the curtains that we realised we would have to cancel our plans and head straight home as fast as we  could. At no point had the weather forecast included snow, but it was snowing heavily and settling on the ground. My husband said he'd been aware of some heavy rain in the night, but we hadn't expected this....
Needless to say, we grabbed our things and headed for the car, knowing we would be crossing lots of small country lanes and minor roads before we got safely back on to the motorway.
 It was lovely, but unnerving.
The journey home took almost four hours, and in some places there were nearly six inches of snow, which is a lot for those of us living in temperate climes :-)
 As many of the country roads were up and down hills, this meant some hair-raising moments, including when one police vehicle was stuck coming up a narrow hill and we were travelling down it.
 At several points we were travelling at  5 - 10 miles per hour, and then we hit the areas which had been hit by flash floods.  We ended up traversing many deep floods, crawling along at one or two miles per hour to avoid creating any "waves" which could send water up the exhaust of the car and causing us to get stuck. Of course, these were always the areas furthest away from civilisation and had no mobile phone signal either. It was really quite scary, and I was so unnerved I could not take any photos. That was the first time I'd ever been in a vehicle crossing flooded roads, and luckily our people-carrier is a "high" vehicle; if the floods had been an inch deeper, we would have been stuck. Several roads were completely impassable and one near Bath town centre was blocked off by police cars to prevent vehicular access as it was deemed too dangerous.
No sooner did we leave a flooded area than we would travel a few  miles and hit snow again. Luckily the  travelling conditions  improved a great deal when we managed to rejoin the motorway.
It was only when we reached the approach to the Severn Bridge that we took a deep sigh of relief and all trace of the snow disappeared.
And soon we were back on my beloved bridge again......
...and giving thanks for getting safely home.

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Anonymous said...

Blimey, Sian, you lick your moments, don't you? But you had a great time, which was the main thing. I think you needed that break. Mary Riches

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, now I know old age has set in, looking at what I wrote bove. That should have said *pick* your moments, not 'laick' them!! *sighs* Mary

elizabeth said...

so glad you made it home! sometimes there is nothing like one's home and familiar places...

Michelle M. said...

What a trip! The photos are beautiful, with the exception of the scary-faced skeleton- yikes!